The formal inauguration of Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology as a Recognised College of the National University of Ireland (NUI) takes place in Milltown Park on Wednesday 5th October from 6pm to 7pm. Minister for Education Mary Hanafin will address the ceremony, led by Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, Chancellor of the NUI.
Milltown Institute currently has 620 students, full time and part time, representing 34 nationalities. Some are school leavers, but the majority are mature students. Whilst the college is Catholic in inspiration and outlook, it is also fully ecumenical in its student body and open to all. It traces its roots back 125 years to when the Jesuits established a school of philosophy and later theology, and the present Institute of Theology and Philosophy was set up in 1968.
According to its President, Dr. Brian Grogan SJ, the inauguration will be a proud and long desired moment in Milltown’s history. “We hope to link especially with UCD” he says. “This then opens up the possibility of combined degrees – theology and a language or theology and business studies – and in that way theology is made available to a wider audience.” Dr Grogan also believes that UCD too stands to gain from the Institute’s new status. “Milltown has been referred to as supplying the ‘missing dimension’ in Irish third level education, because since UCD’s founding in 1908 it has had no theology. Now at last it can place it on the menu whilst retaining its own secular ethos.”
Welcoming Minister Mary Hanafin, Sr Ríonach Donlon IBVM, delegate for the Vice Chancellor of the Milltown Institute, says “Bringing Scholarship to Life, which is our motto, is a costly business… Regarding public funding, Milltown qualifies only for free fees. We earnestly hope that the Minister will support and respond to our request to the HEA (Higher Education Authority) for more funding. Theology is funded elsewhere in Europe as an academic discipline in its own right and so it should be here. I think we could guarantee a lot of prayer for you, Minister, if you can facilitate our negotiations with the HEA!”
Acknowledging also that the role of the state in relation to theology is a complex one, Sr. Donlon quotes Dean Swift: “We learn enough religion to hate, but not enough to love one another”. She adds, “The State must have an interest in helping theology to mediate between religion and culture, through intelligent, humane and ecumenical reflection”.
“Milltown Institute offers a rich blend of traditions of learning both in philosophy and theology. We believe that theology must always be based on sound philosophy, in order to provide intelligent and productive reflection on human life.” says Dr. Brian Grogan. “And personal attention is a key factor in the Institute’s popularity. As it enters this new chapter in its story there is every confidence, given the quality of its staff, that it will play an ever more important role in the shaping of the new Ireland as an inclusive and caring society, strong in its vision of the ultimate goal of human life.”